Image of timber sleepers


Timber sleepers have emerged in recent years as popular decorative additions in a wide range of garden design schemes. A far cry from their once industrial, smog-ridden past, now these versatile, visually appealing slabs of resilient wood can be incorporated into gardens and outdoor spaces of various sizes and natures to add a raw yet human element which marries perfectly with greenery and other garden staples.

Structure, substance and sophistication

Timber sleepers undoubtedly make a statement – whether one is used in isolation, or many are combined to form a larger structure. Steps, decking, sculptures, raised borders, water features – the list of possible uses is endless. They perfectly complement the softness of grasses, foliage and shrubs, and the vibrant yet delicate colour of floral additions with their bold, solid structure and dark colour and grain. As they are relatively inexpensive, they can be used in abundance in garden schemes with a range of budgets and options available. In a smaller garden for example they can be used as a feature – whereas in larger spaces they can form boundaries, seating areas or raised borders to break up the space and add interest.

High-end appearance, understated visual appeal

Timber sleepers are inexpensive and versatile – so you are at liberty to use as many as you wish for a large number of differing purposes. Timber as a material is also malleable – not only can it be stained in different colours, it can also be arranged and manipulated to form certain shapes or designs, as shown in the photos accompanying this post below. Treated timber (also known as tantalised) has a 25 year guarantee – so its role in the garden can be long-lasting and permanent. Although naturally your garden design with evolve through the seasons and in years to come, incorporating solid ‘anchors’ in this way allows you to make subtle changes without altering the structure and overall perspective of the space.

Incorporating timber into your design

Bold and industrial with harsh lines yet soft texture, where once timber sleepers were combined with dark coal and solid ironwork, now they can be accompanied by stylish grey slate shavings and sleek metallic sculptures to achieve a contemporary feel.

Sleepers come in 2.4 metre lengths – often they are cut in two which makes them suitable for use for a range of designs and in a number of different sized spaces. This versatility really allows for creative, innovative implementation – for example, sleepers are excellent when used to a radius as a curved statement (as demonstrated below). Timber sleepers are also great when used as low retaining walls (either to contain raised planters, vegetable patches, to define pathways or seating areas). They can be laid vertically as a ‘row of soldiers' (often in shorter lengths, for example raised, curved planters or paths).

Long-lasting and hard-wearing

Although as mentioned before timber has a 25 year guarantee, when appropriately treated and cared for sleepers can last for up to 30-40 years – so they really constitute a savvy investment when planning a new garden design scheme. Timbers can be appropriately maintained to waterproof them, keep moss growth at bay and prevent rotting. It’s worth noting that timber can become slippery if algae is allowed to take hold – so if it constitutes part of a walkway or patio area it will need to be regularly maintained to keep it safe.

Timber is also beautiful when integrated in such a way that it will be ‘reclaimed’ by nature in years to come. Mosses and fungi thrive on the rich resource of vital nutrients contained within the wood itself and the damp conditions installations commonly create – as do insects, other wildlife and alpine shrubs. Dainty, delicate blooms bobbing on tough, wizened old wood is always charming and effective in a range of schemes, from cottage garden or realistic natural rockery to a fairy-tale feel, whilst slabs of solid timber can age to add character to a contemporary design scheme.

For further inspiration and advice on effective, liveable garden designs, take a look through our previous blog posts or visit our Services page here.